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Highlights from 6 national parks

Estero, Florida
Level Contributor
385 posts
291 reviews
146 helpful votes
Highlights from 6 national parks

Thanks to the TA community, my daughter and I enjoyed three fabulous weeks at six national parks, hiking 108 miles with 24,000 feet elevation gain (Everest is 29,000 feet!). We flew into Denver June 22, 2021, then drove 3,200 miles to Rocky Mountain NP, Grand Canyon South, Grand Canyon North, Escalante, Bryce, Cedar Breaks, Zion, Death Valley and Yosemite.

Best hikes:

• Chasm Lake, Rocky Mountain. Gorgeous glacial lake at the foot of Longs Peak, at 14,259 feet, the highest in the park. 2,500 feet elevation gain amid lots of boulders.

• Bright Angel, Grand Canyon. I went to 3-mile house while my daughter continued onto Indian Springs. She confirmed the grueling return up would have done me in. 2,166 feet elevation for me; 3,048 for her

• Angel’s Landing, Zion. We stayed at Zion Lodge for an easy 5:30 a.m. start, and were atop around 7:30. The fast hikers from the first shuttles soon arrived. Beautiful scenery, challenging rocks and chains, 2,090 feet elevation including a jaunt to the Rim Trail afterward. (In hindsight, we should have started at 5 or 5:15.)

Top of the world:

• Mt Hoffmann from May Lake, Yosemite, 10,850 feet. This is the geographic center of Yosemite, from where you can see Half Dome below you. Pretty grueling, especially the last bit, as much of it is boulder strewn without clear paths. 2,039 feet elevation gain.

• Via Ferrata, near Estes Park, CO, Cathedral peak at Deville rock, 9,000 feet. We love via ferratas and started our adventure with a great one installed by Kent Mountain Adventures just outside of town. We were disappointed and surprised the via ferrata was relatively short while the hike to and from was quite long and tough.

Sentinel Dome, Yosemite, 8,123 feet. Beautiful views, far surpassing Taft Point.

Gorgeous viewpoints without much effort:

Glacier Point, Yosemite

Shoshone Point, Grand Canyon South

• Cape Royal, Grand Canyon North Rim

• Canyon Overlook, Zion

• Kolob Canyon overlook, Zion

Best critters:

• Huge herd of elk with prancing babies, Coyote Valley, Rocky Mountain NP

• Intimate views of a young moose and mom, interrupted by another moose who came right by us, Coyote Valley, Rocky Mountain NP

• Young bear frolicking in the creek at McGurk Meadow as we finished our longest hike, Yosemite NP (we saw two bears over four days).

Surprised by:

• Hail/sleet at Rocky Mountain NP in June.

• Beautiful double rainbow at the Grand Canyon North Rim.

• The Wave in-person lottery at Kanab. Turns out they take four applications OR 16 people. The day we went the winning four applications only had 12 people (including a group of one!) so four "slots" went unfilled.

• Running out of water on two hikes at Yosemite. Although they were relatively short (7.5 and 5.5 miles), they were very steep and it was very hot.

• Such lousy internet access at the parks...until you got to the peaks of hikes.

Most fun:

• Ebikes, Zion. We loved our rentals from Ride Zion, which gave us freedom to control our own time without lines when we did the Narrows, and an exhilarating appreciation of the park’s beauty from the ground.

• Peekaboo Canyon, Escalante. You know a canyon is going to be fun when you have to climb up a rock wall to get in. Peekaboo was filled with rock hurdles and curls that ended all too soon. “More fun than a Disney ride.” We thought this was way better than Buckskin Gulch (Antelope Canyon remained closed until we came home).

Mist Trail to Nevada Falls, Yosemite. Waterfalls were not at their full power on our trip but we enjoyed getting close to Vernal and Nevada Falls. My daughter loved scrambling on the boulders in the mist of beautiful Nevada falls.

• Nymph, Dream and Haiyaha lakes AFTERWARD, Rocky Mountain. We were prepared to get caught in rain but did not expect hail in June. We got soaked and were freezing as the temperature dropped to 54, and we had to forego Mills Lake. In hindsight, it was a lot of unplanned fun.

Harrowing moments:

• Death Valley drive-through in record heat with a glitchy rental car. We barely stopped.

• Returning home on Rocky Mountain’s famed Trail Ridge Road at night when it was completely enshrouded in fog.

• • Blistering sand that scorched bare feet through water sandals at Escalante during the Peekaboo/Spooky hike (I expected a lot of water hiking!)

• For me: the final boulder field up to Mt. Hoffmann after having already ascended nearly 2,000 feet nearly did me in.

• For my daughter: going through the very tight maze of Spooky slot canyon at Escalante

Top temperatures:

• 125 at Death Valley, when the sign told us to turn off our air conditioning to avoid overheating the car. We declined.

• 113 at Escalante during Peekaboo/Spooky hike

• 110 around 4 p.m. after the Narrows hike, Zion

• 46 at Grand Canyon North Rim

Top tips:

• Keep checking lodge cancellations! We scored rooms through daily diligence.

• Great porters at the Grand Canyon hotels, working just for tips

• North Rim only has six official rim-side cabins (309 being the best) but a good number of others are also terrific: 318, 332, 334, 340, 359, 360, 355, 354, 314.

• Cheapest gas is at Native American-owned stations

• Fresh avocado will add great flavor to sandwiches

• Bring your hiking poles on every hike--you never know.

• Buy more ziplock bags than you think you’ll need

Best dining:

Wynn Buffet, Las Vegas

• Thai Cortez, Cortez, CO

• Georgie’s Mexican, Escalante, UT

• Erick Shats Bakkery, Bishop, CA, to load up for the road

Best lodging:

• Fred Harvey Suite, El Tovar Hotel, Grand Canyon. Totally worth the splurge.

• Entrada Escalante Lodge, Escalante, UT. Extremely guest and eco-friendly.

• Sonnenhof Lakewood Manor; Estes Park, CO. Spacious Twin Sisters apartment with great views.

Blog version with pictures:


9 replies to this topic
Winter Haven...
Level Contributor
106 posts
108 reviews
57 helpful votes
1. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

Great report. Sounds like you had a fantastic time and lot of excellent memories.

Destination Expert
for Grand Canyon National Park
Level Contributor
12,797 posts
74 reviews
79 helpful votes
2. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

This is the most enjoyable and expressive trip report I have ever read. Thanks for posting.

Pottersville, New...
Level Contributor
185 posts
6 reviews
14 helpful votes
3. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

Wow, what a trip! Great report, great pictures, and I'll bet great memories made! Thank you for sharing. I'm jealous.

Phoenix, Arizona
Level Contributor
87,101 posts
2,908 reviews
2,706 helpful votes
4. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks


Thank you for sharing your trip.

Travel safely,


Las Vegas, Nevada
Destination Expert
for Stuttgart, Baden-Wurttemberg
Level Contributor
17,759 posts
53 reviews
101 helpful votes
5. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

Nice including your list of bests, and also mentioning some problems. Interesting trip report, thanks.

Destination Expert
for Phoenix, Pinetop-Lakeside
Level Contributor
10,937 posts
473 reviews
233 helpful votes
6. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

I like the way you broke your trip report into categories! Spotting wildlife is always fun and you had some interesting encounters. Glacier Point in Yosemite is breathtaking and one of my favorite spots to take people. Love that view! Agree with Fred Harvey suite - well worth it. You gave some good tips, condensed your report nicely and seem to have had a fun trip. Thanks for sharing!

Sedona, Arizona
Destination Expert
for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
Level Contributor
77,984 posts
224 reviews
229 helpful votes
7. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

Fabulous trip! Well planned and executed.

North Shore, MA
Destination Expert
for Salem
Level Contributor
6,852 posts
173 reviews
183 helpful votes
8. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

Quite a trip! I really enjoyed reading your report and appreciate your posting all the details.

Grand Canyon...
Level Contributor
2,485 posts
12 reviews
3 helpful votes
9. Re: Highlights from 6 national parks

Loved your write up. Sounds likey kind of trip - lots of hiking!

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